Bells were ringing all night long
By JOHN M. DERBY
January 4, 2018
It was no mistake we chose the hotel right next to the Mission
Loreto when we explored the earliest missions in Baja California,
Mexico. We wanted to get the full effect of the first mission
to be built in California. It was built in 1697 in Loreto
and has been restored several times.
they still hold weddings almost every night, and the bells
from the Mission Loreto ring every quarter of the hour.
Sleeping is secondary as one thinks about the history of
the people who have gathered in this mission for over 310
years, with its high-vaulted ceiling.
walls are almost 3-feet thick, and some of the interior
fixtures were brought across the Sea of Cortez by the Spanish.
is more than 650 miles south of the Mexican border, but
there was obviously no border of the kind back during the
Spanish Colonial Period when the Spain claimed land all
over California — starting in Baja Sur and extending
all the way north of San Francisco.
and nearby San Javiar, is the home of two of the earliest
missions in all of California. The second one, Mission San
Javiar, 34 kilometers due east of the city, is a steep climb
from the valley floor up the face of a mountain range to
over 3,000 feet. Mission San Javiar gives its founding date
as 1699, however, the mission was completed almost 10 years
Mission San Javiar is unique because it is believed to be
the first mission to ever use glass windows in its high-vaulted
walls. The mission is built in the shape of a cross, and
the alter is an excellent example of the gold inlay work
which was traditional in the early missions. This mission
was only restored with its gold inlay in the past 10 years
by university students who used their summers to work on
string of missions went from Loreto heading north about
a week’s walking distance from each other. We have
a third mission much closer to us in Mulege, however, it
dates much later, as does the one located in San Ignasio,
located on an oasis about 30 miles inland.
early missions were built by the Jesuits but the religious
order went out of favor with the Spanish royalty and were
evicted from the Baja California peninsula because the rulers
felt the church was gaining too much power.
building was carried on by other religious sects and there
are dozens of these missions to be found heading north over
the ridge of Baja California. Some of the missions lay in
ruin, but remarkably, others have been restored at great
time and expense, and survive today in relatively good condition.
in Baja California can find them on a road map, and like
us, take side trips to see how and why these missions were
built where they were. Most were built in an effort to bring
Christ to the indigenous population, but in some cases those
populations did not survive the missions which they helped